First off let me say that I hate the term ‘family violence’, and am even beginning to lament our use of ‘domestic violence’. It makes it all nicely neatly packaged as a personal problem within families – nobody really to blame.
It is MALE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.
This is the problem. This is why women are being killed, beaten, raped, imprisoned, violated, controlled, constrained – are scared, are unable to live freely.
Because of MALE VIOLENCE!!!
And it is not only male violence in the home – it is male violence in the street, in the workplace, in public places. Women are not safe from male violence anywhere.
So when QandA announce they are doing a programme on ‘family violence’ we are supposed to be grateful that at last the issue is getting some national coverage on the ABC.
Well we had the controversy even before the programme aired. Women were rightly annoyed that the composition of the panel was majority male – 3 male guests, 2 female guests and of course, Tony Jones hosting. The complaints about the makeup of the panel were responded to by the oft cited reason –
“We have to engage the men in addressing family violence”.
It speaks volumes that in order to engage men, it is other men who have to speak. Women’s voices are not valid.
The unequal representation of women on the panel says it all really about how we evaluate women’s voices –how women’s voices are not heard; are viewed as being less valuable, less important, less knowledgeable; how we manage to silence women.
And let’s talk about knowledge. I do not want to hear from men about male violence against women. Women are the experts here. We are the ones who live with violence, the threat of violence every day of our lives. And if men are not willing to sit down quietly, shut up and listen to what that means for women; listen to our experiences of violence; listen to what we have learnt about men and violence – then nothing will change.
The panel appeared to acknowledge that male violence was about power and control – whilst the men enacted their power and control over the discussion.
Clem Ford has written about this in Daily Life:
“Gender inequality is one of the key drivers of men’s violence against women. Limiting the access women have to both participate in and lead discussions that are politically and culturally important isn’t just related to the structures of violence that oppress us – it is a fundamental part of its very foundation. It isn’t good enough for women to just be given a scrap of space to speak, particularly when it’s about matters that directly affect our lives.”
Intimate Partner Terrorism
But then we heard that Intimate Partner Terrorism is the extreme end of violence – and they are sociopaths/narcissist – and not the majority. The majority of violence is about relationship problems. (Counsellor for Men and Families Simon Santosha on the panel.)
I had the privilege of going to a seminar presented by Liz Kelly recently.
And Georgina Dent has written an article prior to the QandA show citing Liz Kelly.
“Kelly established the concept of sexual violence occurring on a continuum and identified common elements in different types of violence and connecting them to structural gender inequality.”
“The everyday is connected to the extreme and it’s connected in two ways. First in terms of women’s experiences but it’s also connected in the sense that it’s not deviant, crazy men who do this,” she says “There are some crazy and deviant men but the majority are relatives, colleagues, or friends. A lot of this violence is normalised; it’s only by challenging it and identifying it that we perceive it as violence.”
There is too much talk about psychological explanations for men’s violence – talk about mental health issues; about drug and alcohol being the cause. It came up frequently last night.
And then of course came the argument that it is the result of men feeling disempowered – perhaps because women are beginning to be empowered??
Natasha Stott-Despoja’s repeated argument was that gender inequality is at the core of the issue of male violence against women. They all agreed but there was no in-depth discussion about this. There were no suggestions made about how we can create change in the power imbalance between men and women.
But we have to make sure we take care of men’s feelings – their feelings of shame and embarrassment and their feelings of disempowerment – because if they don’t they just might get violent.
There were lots of good questions from women in the audience. Perhaps the best was the video question from Megan Hale:
“I am nineteen, I have been sexualised by men my whole life. I do not feel safe when I am alone in public and my experiences have taught me that boys my age feel entitled to my body. I do not feel equal to men in Australian society at all. Can the men on the panel acknowledge that there is a lot of entrenched misogyny in Australia, and what are they going to do to get other men to take gender inequality and male violence seriously?”
“Entrenched misogyny” – what a great term. And her question was barely responded to. Little acknowledgement from the panel that this exists for all women and no analysis of how this could be addressed.
WHAT ABOUT MALE VICTIMS?
And of course we had the tweets – “not all men are abusers”; “what about the men”.
They can’t allow women to speak; to have a voice without involving the “poor men”.
This was followed by Steve Khouw asking about male victims and citing dodgy statistics about male victims and female perpetrators.
“But what I want to know, is why it has to be the very small, flickering torchlight that we place on women that needs to be shared with disempowered men, rather than the massive stage lights that are normally shining on men that need to be shared.”
“Violence against women is not an issue of ‘why don’t women leave’ or ‘how can we support men who are violent to control their emotions’, it is about how do we fundamentally shake up the building blocks of our society to give women more power, and in doing so, remove the ‘right’ of some men to be violent.”Julie McKay, Daily Life
What would have been the impact if ABC had chosen an all female panel – with a female host? Would their voices have had legitimacy? Would men have bothered to listen?
“To end male violence against women, we need to end male power, and dismantle all the institutions that uphold male supremacy. It is this power that creates and is reinforced by male violence against women. We will never end male violence by believing that we can change one man at a time, though sensitising education programmes. We will never end male violence against women by being gentle to men and sympathetic to the harms of masculinity to men, not without destroying the institutions that uphold and create male supremacy. We will never end male violence against women, against children, even against other men, if we fail to recognise and name men as the overwhelming primary perpetrators of almost all forms of violence.” Karen Ingalas Smith.
Male violence against women is a women’s issue – because women are the ones who constantly live with the consequences of male violence. I don’t want to hear a male perspective on this. I want men to listen to women. I am not responsible for changing men’s behaviour. If men are truly interested in change then they need to listen to women.
As Liz Kelly said in her seminar in Adelaide – yes we need changes in social policy; yes we need legislative change; but what we really need is a feminist revolution.
Women murdered and missing by known and suspected male violence Australia 2015